When Smooth Legs Go Bumpy: Dr. Herzog’s Advice


IMG_1740Question  Dr. Herzog, my legs have suddenly become covered with tiny bumps.  They make shaving difficult, and they itch at night. What is causing this, and what can I do to get my smooth legs back?

Dr. Jo Herzog

There are many things that can cause bumps on the legs, so a picture would be very helpful. However, since we do not have one, I will address what I think are the most common types of “bumpy legs” that I see. Some of my advice might contradict what you read on how to get a closer shave; however, our goal is to first address the bumps.
Keratosis Pilaris is by far one of the most common causes that I see for tiny bumps. The most common place for this is usually the backs of the upper arms, but this is not uncommon on the legs either. The hair follicles become plugged,causing many tiny rough bumps. These often get inflamed and become pink. The tendency for these seems to run in families, and it seems to be more common in those with dry skin. The first line of therapy is to use a potent moisturizer, twice daily, such as 12% lactic acid such as Amlactin or Lac Hydrin.
Folliculitis can also cause leg bumps. This happens when hair follicles become inflamed or infected. You might see little white heads or pustules mixed with inflamed pink/red  bumps. This can happen when shaving against the hairs, with improper lubrication, or from introduction of bacteria to the legs. If you think that this could be your problem, then you should get a new razor and consider changing your shaving habits.
Always shave after the hairs are well hydrated (after a bath or shower). Use a lubricating shaving cream or gel. Avoid scented products, as they can irritate your skin. Those that contain moisturizers or emollients are preferred, and they are usually the ones marketed for sensitive skin. If shaving against the hairs is really irritating, you might have to shave in the other direction.  Yes, this goes against those instructions on how to get the closest shave, but it might be less irritating.  Try not to scrape over the same area again and again. Using a multi-bladed razor is helpful. My family loves the Gillette Fusion.  
Using a light moisturizer on a regular basis is helpful, as is applying one after shaving. If you still have red bumps or pustules, you might need an antibiotic , so see your doctor. 
“Razor burn” is another complication of shaving. If you shave on dry skin, press hard, hold the skin tight, and go over and over the same area, you will just irritate your skin. Disposable razors, as well as old ones, are not usually friendly to skin. If you just get plain old irritated, then make sure your skin is moisturized the night before, wet for a few minutes before shaving, and use a good razor (also see paragraph above). After shaving, you can apply a little hydrocortisone cream mixed with your moisturizer to soothe your legs. 
Hope this helps you get on the way to smooth, bump free legs.

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